Feed on

Because they are all evil and want to harm children, the poor and Mother Earth.

Here is yet another finding about the energy “efficiency” of “green” buildings:

Washington, D.C. may have the highest number of certified green buildings in the country, but research by  Environmental Policy Alliance suggests it might not be doing much good.

The free-market group analyzed the first round of energy usage data released by city officials Friday and found that large, privately-owned buildings that received the green energy certification Leadership in Energy Design (LEED) actually use more energy than buildings that didn’t receive this green stamp of approval.

LEED is the brainchild of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), a private environmental group.

By the way, you just have to love the reporting here. I agree that this is a small slice of research and it “suggests” that these buildings use more energy than we hoped. I bet that result would not have included the word “suggests” had the findings pointed the other way. And of course, you can dismiss the findings anyway because the work was on large privately-owned buildings that were certified. One wonders what the record of publicly owned buildings would be. Furthermore, you can dismiss the entire study because LEED is actually the brainchild of a private certification group, so of course it’s meaningless and surely evidence that we need government certification of this sort of thing. And of course, we need to be reminded that this research was conducted by a free-market group — which is relevant because …?

Again, I am going into a deep hiding. This world that I see around me has devolved into a nasty food fight where anyone who holds different views is not only wrong ipso facto, but actually quite evil, privileged and doing what they do simply because “society” makes them do it, or some evil conspiratorial force makes them do it. It’s not even people with different views, it’s the existence of inconvenient evidence on its own.

Take this LEED stuff for example. The above “findings” are not isolated. There is a decent sized literature showing very much the same thing. So, while it’s obvious that LEED building costs more money than “conventional” buildings and we could do a simple cost-benefit analysis to demonstrate just how many additional resources are being consumed on these buildings to get some particular environmental savings (and we call that inefficient because with THOSE SAME resources we could actually be doing more environmental good than by making symbolic investments). Indeed, these are not too tough to do yet they are rarely done by proponents of the projects. But that’s possibly not a big deal. Opposing a project that doesn’t pass a decent cost-benefit threshold might still make sense of some non-measurable value were being met, such as “we are saving the planet and our estimate of the costs of planet destruction are too low when we do the traditional CBA.” Well, that’s fine. So let’s just ignore the “dollars and cents” when we do CBA – the folks that are more enlightened than we are tell us that we are being “economist-y” and are totally disconnected with “reality” when we suggest that it’s wasteful to waste resources.


But then let’s examine the environmental outcomes on their own, without ANY regard to the resources used to get that outcome.

And these projects are, on their own, net harms to the environment.

Yet “those you disagree with” nonetheless ignore this fact or roll it along with the traditional cost-benefit analysis and accuse the analysts still of being “economist-y.” So, a purely environmental analysis that pays no attention to dollars and cents shows that a project is doing more harm than good on the grounds that its proponents say matter and therefore such analysis should be dismissed too. I think the point is that no analysis ought ever be done, either by “opponents” or “proponents.” It’s a brilliant rhetorical trick that sadly wins the day, at least among the more enlightened people than me. So I ask, is there ANYTHING that demonstrates the success or failure of a project? Or is the mere existence of something evidence of “righteousness?”

And going back to a theme we touched on here a few weeks ago – the entire idea of “green building supporters” or “green building opponents” is ugly, dangerous, anti-scientific and mystic. Who’s being a denier, a real denier, of science? If there are no ex-ante standards by which we can evaluate the usefulness of a project or endeavor, then there is no scientific way to conclude that any project is or isn’t worth doing. The decision about what is “good” or “bad” therefore comes down to who holds more power, whose version of mysticism is more attractive to the people in power, whose rhetoric is more persuasive, or even who has the guns. I find this entirely unnerving, and in particular among the “enlightened” who claim to have the mantle of science and tar anyone who actually tries to use science as a “denier.” So, if your green building projects (tentatively, perhaps, maybe, sometimes) do not pass a cost-benefit test and if they do not even provide any environmental benefit, then what defense is there for doing them? I admit that such defenses exist, and I’d be happy to make them for my “opponents”, but wouldn’t it be nice to know what they are ex ante, and not have them thrown at you after the marketing campaign to get the buildings produced in the first place turns out to have been full of Potemkin Promises.

So, again, one cannot reasonably say that they are a “proponent” or “opponent” of green building practices ipso facto without a prior commitment to being scientific about it. But none of this is about science, and it’s an incredibly large waste of my time and your time to write about it, argue about it, or get worked up about it.

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